Policy context

Authors: Eleni Briassoulis, Ruta Landgrebe

Editor's note 5Sep12. Text to be re-read following move of this category to main menu. Eleni - the text of this category introduction cannot be edited from the front end. You need to copy and paste into a word document, make the corrections using track changes and email it to Jane.

Policies play a dual role in land degradation and desertification (LEDD). On the one hand, they may contribute to LEDD if they encourage resource-depleting activities and harmful land management practices. On the other hand, policies may help to combat LEDD, either directly or indirectly, if they encourage resource protection and environmentally friendly land use practices. In this latter role, policies serve as important planned and formal positive responses to LEDD. Their absence may also be one of the reasons why LEDD occurs in a region. Policies do not act alone, but rather in combination with other policies as it is the case, for exsample, with environmental and regional development policies. Moreover, policies interact with informal responses to LEDD such as activities that the users of land undertake to either combat LEDD or to satisfy individual or collective needs. This is why the analysis of the policy context occupies a central place in the study of human responses to LEDD.

Policies are formulated at all levels, from the international through the supranational (e.g. the European Union) to the national, regional and local levels, depending on the political and administrative systems of a country. At the international level, policies are known as international agreements because the notion of policy is used only within the context of sovereign states. International agreements concern economic, social and environmental issues. The UNCCD, the UNCBD and the UNCCC are examples of such international agreements.

LEDDRA categorizes policies into two groups: direct and indirect. The former explicitly concern the protection of land resources and the environment (e.g. water, soil, biodiversity); the latter concern general, sectoral, economic and spatial issues (such as taxation, agricultural production, regional development, spatial planning, etc.). Indirect policies affect the drivers of LEDD, thus indirectly aggravating or ameliorating LEDD in a region. The table below offers an overview of the policies that are being considered in LEDDRA.


European Union
Direct policies UNCCD, UNCBD, UNCCC, Forest Strategy, ....
Habitats Directive, Water Framework Directive, EIA, SEA, EU thematic strategies, ....
Environmental policies, nature protection, water protection, forest policies, ...
Indirect policies WTO agreements, ... CAP, TEN, SFs, CF, enterprise policies, ... Agricultural, trade, transportation, urban planning, regional development, ..

To achieve their goals and objectives, policies provide for various types of policy instruments that formal and informal actors use through policy-prescribed and other procedures.

Various types of policy instruments exist, such as legal, institutional, administrative, economic, fiscal, educational, communication, physical and technological. Most of the time, policy instruments are used in combination with one another, e.g. economic instruments are administered through particular administrative arrangements, while their provision is subject to the implementation of certain environmental regulations. Furthermore, instruments relating to more than one policy are often simultaneously in place; through their combined action, they influence the ways in which human activities are carried out and resources are used.

The effectiveness of a policy depends on the conditions under which it is implemented, its interactions with other policies and the stakeholders involved. Policy implementation hinges on the presence of barriers preventing or opportunities favouring its uptake and application on the ground.

LEDDRA systematically analyzes selected policies that concern three land use types – cropland, grazing land and forests & shrubland – and examines their implementation in the selected study sites. These sites are located in Spain, Greece, Italy, China and Morocco that have been chosen for their coverage of three land use types. The analysis is based on desk studies and stakeholder consultation that is conducted via interviews, surveys, stakeholder workshops and a policy conference. The choice of stakeholders and their involvement in the research process is particularly significant as they will provide important input to the research and will also facilitate the dissemination of research findings to a variety of audiences and their application after LEDDRA ends. The following table provides an overview of the stakeholder groups that are considered in LEDDRA.


Name of stakeholder group
International level
UN bodies
Commercial interests WTO, etc.
International NGOs
Greenpeace, WWF, etc.
EU level
EU bodies    
DG-ENV, DG-Regio, etc.
Private sector bodies at EU level Representatives of major economic sectors (e.g. agriculture, industry, etc.)
NGOs at EU level EEB, etc.
National level
Public sector
Ministries, etc.
Private sector Representatives of major economic sectors (e.g. agriculture, industry, etc.)
Civil society
Professional associations, academic and research institutions, NGOs, etc.
Regional level
Public sector
Regional authorities, etc.
Private sector   
Representatives of major economic sectors (e.g. agriculture, industry, etc.)
Third sector (professional associations, NGOs, etc.) Professional associations, regional research institutions, regional NGOs, etc.
Local level
Public sector    Local authorities, etc.
Private sector Local businesses, business associations, etc.
Civil society Professional associations, local research institutions, local NGOs, etc.
Individuals Farmers, etc.

The analysis of the policy context is expected to:

  • assist in identifying those factors that are critical for policy implementation,
  • suggest new management tools and policy instruments that can be successfully integrated in existing policies,
  • support the formulation of policy recommendations to enhance policy effectiveness and the design of optimal response assemblages for each land theme in general and for the study sites specifically and
  • identify suitable knowledge transfer processes for different kinds of stakeholders and end users at various levels.


2014-11-28 10:48:40